Driving Change in Higher Education.

Policy Update

Study finds that more than 40% of community college transfer students unable to transfer credits

Study finds that more than 40% of community college transfer students unable to transfer credits

In recent years there have been several studies that show students are more likely to attain a bachelor’s degree if they start out at a four-year institution versus a two-year school. It has been assumed that the reason for this was that two-year colleges were not preparing their students to succeed. Two researchers at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York have concluded that the biggest impediment to the academic success for students who start a two-year school is that four-year institutions are not accepting their credits. The study finds that only 58 percent of community college transfer students are able to transfer all or almost all (90 percent or more) of their credits. The researchers estimate that graduation rates for transfer students would jump from 46 to 54 percent if more credits were accepted. Find out more about this research by reading “The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree.” 

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Government spending on higher education rising nationally

Government spending on higher education rising nationallyGovernment spending on higher education rising nationally

A report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers show that state and local support for higher education is starting to increase as the country rises out of the recession. Thirty states increased spending over last year, while three states, Illinois, North Dakota and Wyoming, even increased spending over 2008 levels. The data also points to an even greater increase in next year’s budgets. However, students are still being asked to shoulder a much greater portion of the financial load than in the past. Nationally, about 47 percent of the cost of educating a student is paid through tuition. This is up from 23 percent in the 1980s, 31 percent in the 1990s and 35 percent in the 2000s. Read more about increasing higher education budgets here.

Should borrowers be automatically enrolled in income-based repayment of student loans?

As congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, there is discussion among policy makers about including an automatic enrollment in income-based repayment plans for borrowers. Student loan payments based on income level would be automatically deducted from the paycheck of borrowers. Underlying this issue is a growing consensus that signing up for income-based repayment is too complex with borrowers having to choose between seven different programs. Some argue that income-based repayment plans aren’t the best choice for everyone. Borrowers pay more in the long term even if their monthly payments are lower. There is also some concern that the lower monthly payments would mask the increased tuition and remove incentives for states and institutions to reduce the cost of attending college. Click here to read more about automatic income-based repayment.

Legislative session resumes with conference committee meetings

The 2014 Minnesota legislative session resumes this week after a ten-day spring break. On Tuesday, work will begin on finalizing the supplemental budget with the conference committee meeting for the first time on Tuesday afternoon. The higher education provisions put forward by the House and Senate vary significantly. 

The House proposal funds the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system's request for additional funding to help with the settlement of faculty contracts. MnSCU would receive $17 million in FY15 and $14 million in additional funding for both of the fiscal years after that. In the Senate, MnSCU receives $17 million in only FY15. 

The Senate also includes several policy provisions related to higher education. Of note, the bill includes:

  • Changes to the Minnesota State Grant Program: Included in the proposal are modifications to both the four-year tuition maximum and the living and miscellaneous expenses allowance. These changes aim to spend the surplus dollars that are a result of lower-than-projected enrollments and tuition rates across the state. 
  • Transfer language: Language from SF2771 (Miller), which directs the MnSCU system to create an implementation plan to improve transfer of credits through the establishment of multi-institution articulation agreements. 

The conference committee will likely meet several times to work through differences over the next few weeks. 

Policy Update: Transferology website launches, helping students plan for transfer

Transferology website launches, helping students plan for transfer

CollegeSource released Transferology last week, a website that allows students to see how their coursework will transfer to other programs. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system is a user of Transferology and pays a license fee to include system courses and programs on the site.  The Transferology website marks a facelift for the company’s former product, known as U.Select, which MnSCU also purchased. Transferology allows students to import transcripts or planned coursework at their current school and compare how their work will transfer into various programs at other colleges and universities. A variety of public and private colleges and universities participate in the site nationwide. The new website went live on March 31, and will be promoted to students through advisors, flyers, and bookmarks. Learn more at http://www.transferology.com.

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Legislative update: Work continues at the capitol in St. Paul

Work continues at the capitol in St. Paul. This week, much of the focus centered on passage of the supplemental budget bill in both the House and Senate.

The Senate Finance Committee met all day on Friday to debate and take amendments on each budget article which was eventually amended into one large budget proposal. During that hearing, changes were made to committee budget targets which had a significant impact on funding in the current and future biennium. Prior to the start of Friday's meeting, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) were set to receive $17 million in FY2015 and the same amount each of the following years. However, the committee reduced overall spending in the next biennium and that included the elimination of the $17 million for MnSCU in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. There was an amendment in the committee to re-instate MnSCU's funds, but it was not adopted. The Senate version of the bill does still include credit transfer language that was championed by MSCSA.

The House supplemental budget bill received final approval from the full chamber this week. That bill contains $17 million for MnSCU in FY2015 and $14 million in each of the next two fiscal years.  

Following passage of the budget bill by the full Senate this week, a conference committee will be formed to begin work on finalizing the bill. All differences must be worked out before a final proposal can be re-passed by each legislative body and sent to the Governor for his signature. Negotiations will likely begin later this week or following the spring break for the legislature which begins this Friday.

If you have questions about a legislative issue, please feel free to contact the MSCSA office at 651-297-5877.

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